I’ve talked a lot about the importance of maintaining healthy post-divorce relationships; not only with your children, but with each other. I firmly believe that children DESERVE parents who get along or at least make every effort to. As a result, I’ve been getting tons of emails from readers who claim to know the benefit of peacefully coexisting in order to co-parent effectively, but “the how” is what they lack the knowledge in. My answer is simple – JUST DO IT! You don’t have to be best friends or even friends; you just have to be civil for the sake of your children. Put your anger [of the past] away and concentrate on doing what’s best for your children instead of doing whatever gives you temporary satisfaction. Some of those same readers seem to be confused about the meaning of the word civil. Civil is not “mean mugging” each other during drop off and pick up. It’s not subtly bad-mouthing each other. And, it’s not communicating via morse code just to avoid actually speaking to each other. Get over yourself and be selfless enough to actually be civil, especially in front of your children. Be polite and learn to bite your tongue. Say hello, how are you and use the basic manners that you learned at age 5. These are things that you do every single day. Do you curse your boss out every time he or she makes you angry? What about the waitress at your favorite restaurant? Do you fly off the handle if she messes up your order? Probably not. So, I know that you can control your urge to slap your ex upside the head, too. It really is that simple. It might not be easy to do, but it’s that simple.
Before I get those comments saying “my ex is bipolar” or “my ex is an alcoholic”; let me assure you that I am not talking about those situations. I know it is difficult, sometimes impossible, to maintain a healthy relationship with these types of individuals. However, it is possible to disengage yourself from the battle. You don’t have to fight even if your ex is fighting with you.
Rule #1: Pick your battles! Life is just too short to stew over the past or fight about every little thing.
My brother taught me that sometimes it’s best to just say nothing at all. He used to burn me up when I would get so angry with him, and he would act like I wasn’t even there. But, eventually I would just move on because it’s hard to fight with someone that isn’t fighting back. In the end, you just end up looking stupid and no one wants to look stupid. Sometimes you just have to see it as that other person’s issue and move on! Let go of the past hurt for it’s the only way that you can move on. If you often find yourself consumed by anger, then you need to get some help! It’s never too late to do so. Only “fight” when you have to and don’t actually fight. Instead just communicate your concerns to your ex-spouse; which brings me to rule #2.
Rule #2: Voice your concerns to your ex-spouse!
Don’t automatically be ready to “go off.” Instead, just talk to him or her about your concerns. For example, I recently had an issue with my ex, and I must admit that I was ready to “go off.” I even contacted a lawyer; preparing to take his butt right back to court (yes, even I slip up at times). It’s completely natural to be overwhelmed with anger when someone pisses you off, especially your ex. After all, you’re divorced for a reason, right? But, I caught myself before bringing the matter to him in such a volatile and attacking way. I first led with a positive by telling him that I truly appreciate him being so open and willing to communicate with me about issues regarding our son. Then, I expressed my concern. He, of course, countered my concern, but I did the same to his. We had a disagreement and it’s probably going to happen a thousand times over because that’s what people do sometimes – disagree. It’s okay, so expect it. It’s how you handle those disagreements that matter. In the end, my ex and I talked it out and we worked it out; without fighting.
Rule #3: Practice basic manners.
Your children don’t need parents who can’t even say hi to each other when in the same room. Remember, although your involvement with your ex-spouse in regards to setting up visitation and child support will diminish when your children are grown; it doesn’t mean that you two will never encounter each other again. You’ll be at your child’s wedding. You’ll be there for the birth of your grandchildren. You’ll be there at college graduations. You will be there, together, with and for your child, so you better practice on being polite now. You don’t want to ruin those moments and memories [with unnecessary tension] for your child because you can’t be civil towards each other. So, the next time you see your ex-spouse forget about the tension and focus on just being polite. You don’t have to invite them to dinner or anything; or even invite him or her in your house. Just take baby steps and do the following:
- Say hello the next time you see your ex-spouse
- Ask how he or she is doing
- Greet him or her with a smile
- Tell him or her to have fun with your children
- Treat him or her as you would anybody else that you are trying to be polite to
Rule #4: Don’t bad-mouth your ex-spouse’s new spouse.
If you have a concern about your ex-spouse’s new spouse, don’t bad-mouth her to your ex. Remember, that she is your ex’s new spouse. As such, it will be in his nature to defend her. Therefore, you will be starting the conversation off on the wrong foot. Additionally, when your children acquire new relatives, via marriage or otherwise, it’s important to acknowledge and respect these relationships instead of dismissing them. Acknowledge, respect and encourage your children’s relationships with their step or half siblings, step-grandparents, step-aunts and uncles, cousins, etc. Remember, that society brainwashes us to believe that family can only consist of blood lines and a two biological parent household, but the dynamics of family are changing and have been changing for quite some time. Your children’s step-family is just as much family as their biological family and should be treated as such. As a matter of fact, children can only benefit from having a large loving family comprised of step, half and biological, than a two parent household without love.
Learning to act like adult parents is not as hard as it may initially feel. Once again, you have to revert back to the days of old when you first learned basic manners and being polite. Think before you speak or act. Let go of that residual anger that does nothing for you or your children. As a matter of fact, it only prevents you from moving forward and improving your life as well as the lives of your children. You may have every right to be angry [in some cases], but it serves no purpose to hang on to that hurt. Hanging on to hurt only hurts your children. Let it go so that you can create a healthy family unit for your children. After all, with over half of marriages ending in divorce the best thing we can do for our children is to make sure that they are raised in healthy families, regardless of their parents’ marital status.